Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs Chelsea

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One of the most exciting fixtures of the Premier League season takes place this weekend, as Arsenal host Chelsea in a contest that has been painfully one-sided in the last few years. Arsenal have not registered a Premier League win against Chelsea since way back in October of 2011, when Andre Santos (remember him?) was on the scoresheet in a blockbuster 5-3 result that also saw Robin van Persie score a hat-trick.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rsm8dXDLZKI

Since that result, Chelsea have played nine league games with Arsenal, won six and drawn three. They have scored 15 goals, six of which came in a 6-0 mauling, to Arsenal’s two. In the process, the Wenger-Mourinho rivalry escalated to melodramatic proportions with touchline altercations and heated press conferences.

A new chapter will be written as Antonio Conte gets his first taste of the London derby, becoming the 12th Chelsea manager that Wenger has come up against. With this the first meeting between the two managers, the question remains as to how they will approach the contest. Regarding Chelsea, their 2-1 loss to Liverpool saw the side backing off often, trying to play on the break, and such a style of play mirrors aspects of Jose Mourinho’s game plan with Chelsea.

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Meanwhile, Arsenal have shaken off a worrying start to the season to find some form, and they are undefeated in their last six games in all competitions. They put four past Hull City in their last Premier League match and did the same to Nottingham Forrest mid-week in the League Cup.

Team News – Arsenal

Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey continues to struggle with a hamstring injury that his seen him out of action since being taken off in Arsenal’s league opener against Liverpool. He will miss out along with Olivier Giroud, yet to start this season, who is struggling with a toe injury. That means Alexis Sanchez is likely to continue his role leading the attack for Arsenal, although Lucas Perez’s brace in the League Cup will put him in contention for a starting role.

Granit Xhaka has already scored twice for Arsenal in limited appearances, both goals being powerful long-range strikes coming within the space of three days. His signing brings great quality in depth, the Swiss international competing with Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny for a spot at the base of Wenger’s midfield. Wenger has opted for Cazorla and Coquelin in the last two league outings, however, he may opt for more steel in the centre to compete with the likes of Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante.

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Team News – Chelsea

Chelsea’s only real injury problems lie in their defence, with John Terry’s return from an ankle injury picked up against Swansea two weeks ago subject to a late fitness test, whilst Kurt Zouma is out with a knee injury. That means it is likely to see David Luiz continue at centre half, the Brazilian having made his second debut for the Blues against Liverpool and done a reasonable job.

The place of Cesc Fabregas in the side has caused much debate, and his brace against Leicester City in the mid-week cup tie will only bring further reason for his inclusion. Manager Antonio Conte has insisted there is no problem between him and the Spaniard, saying, “All my choices are done to win…(I) don’t care what their surname is.” He also praised Fabregas’ commitment and attitude in training, which is reflected by the former Arsenal player’s recent comments, saying, “The coach chooses the 11 he thinks is best suited to win the game…wherever I am I will support the team.”

Prediction: 1-1

The way we can predict the sides to play suggests a classic Arsenal vs Chelsea fixture, yet there is an element of the unknown surrounding the tie due to the lack of history between the managers. A tight, physical and fiery contest is to be expected. What’s for sure is both sides will be desperate to avoid defeat, knowing full well the implications of a loss. League leaders Manchester City will have already played earlier in the day, and victory for them over Swansea will have them sitting eight points clear of both sides before a ball is kicked.

Player to watch: Diego Costa

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The powerhouse striker has begun the season in fantastic form, sitting joint-top scorer with five goals in as many games. Costa has a controversial history against Arsenal, being blamed for ‘getting players sent off’, but has also proved effective, scoring the winner last time out in a narrow 1-0 win. He will be keeping Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi busy for the entire 90 minutes.

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